At 25, Noah Gundersen has already logged more miles on the road than many musicians 10 years his senior. His songs are like that, too—impossibly conjured from wisdom he couldn’t possibly possess in his mid-20s. This combination propelled the Seattle musician to a successful 2014, which saw the release of his debut solo album, Ledges, in February and a new EP, Twenty-Something. Between a nationwide tour and mixing a full-length for release next year, Seattle Weekly probed Gundersen about the past year and his homecoming.
propel you to another level, or do you feel like your growth has been steady?
Gundersen: A lot of it has been slow growth, which I have been frustrated with at times in my life, but at this point I’m really grateful for it. The slow growth has helped me maintain headspace and realize that a healthy career in music is more of a marathon than a sprint.
Where does that philosophy come from? I know you’ve also expressed apprehension about major labels.
It comes from a desire for sustainability. For example, I did a show with Emmylou Harris a year or two ago, and seeing her in her 60s still touring and still working, I saw that and said, “That’s what I want to do.” Obviously I don’t have any illusions of being as successful as Emmylou Harris, but just the idea that I want to be doing this 20, 30, 40 years from now. I don’t see myself as being a buzz band. I make sad, slow music.
Do you think you’ll ever make loud records?
I just finished recording a new record, and it’s louder than the last one.
Your new EP includes a cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a song released when you were 2. What was the inspiration?
I wanted to showcase the lyrics of the song, because it’s hugely important to a generation that I wasn’t necessarily a part of, but still has relevance now to a generation that feels entitled yet disconnected, that’s overstimulated but unsatisfied. I like the idea of trying to do something that was a big part of a place that I am from, and then trying to put my own spin on it.
Early on, you and your siblings performed as The Courage, which evolved into you becoming a solo act while keeping them in your band. Was this a difficult transition?
It’s something we’ve had to work through. It took a lot of communication. We realized that just from a branding and marketing sense, my name had the most time being pushed out to the market, and that’s what people recognized. We didn’t want to have a mouthful of a band name, like Noah and Abby Gundersen and all the other Gundersens. It seemed like an unnecessary hassle, but it was also something that we had to talk about.
Do you have anything special planned for the Moore show? I’m sure it will be nice to end your tour at home.
Yeah, that was intentional. The last tour we started in Seattle at the Neptune, which was an amazing time, but by the end of that six-week tour we were super tight, and I just thought it would be fun to end the tour in Seattle with that level of cohesiveness between the band members. We also have a quartet from the Seattle Symphony playing with us that night, which I’m very excited about. It’s nice to be working with such professional people.
Will you play any new songs?
I’m trying to hold off on playing new material, because the last record took so long to make that most of the songs were already up on YouTube by the time the record came out. As a writer, I love to play whatever’s fresh, but then you get a shitty version of it up on YouTube and that’s people’s introduction to it.
NOAH GUNDERSEN With Rocky Votolato. The Moore, 1932 Second Ave., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.org/moore. $20 adv./$22.50 DOS. 8 p.m. Fri., Nov. 28.